MexiCan Mounties - Chapter Three
Day 1 & 2
Miles – 50 Total Miles – 50 Feet Climbed – 3,030 Total Feet Climbed – 3,030
With the climb up Mt. Lassen looming in our future, we decided to do a few “preview” days so that the first official day of Chapter 3 wouldn’t be Super Climb Part III. We under took a couple of out-and-back days, instead. The first day, we rode from the last stop of Chapter 2, Quincy, to the next town, Greenville. It was just over 22 miles out. The weather was perfect, about 75 degrees, no wind, and wonderfully low California humidity. We cruised through the typical Sierra forest of various large pine and fir trees highlighted by the huge sugar pine cones that were littered along the road. About half-way to Greenville we made a turn and followed Indian Creek for a few miles. We did not venture out to Indian Falls, maybe when we drive this route we’ll visit it. This was one of the most scenic routes we’ve been on. The creek bumped and flowed through some granite but there was also plenty of darker, more volcanic looking, rock that reminded us we were getting very close to Lassen Park and volcano country.
As we pedaled through the canyon we came across the second “Railroad Wonder” of the trip, the Keddie “Y”. Some of you more alert readers may remember the first “wonder” we saw, the Tehachapi Loop from chapter one. The Keddie “Y” is a very (!) elevated section of two tracks above the river that split off from a single track on one side of the canyon at the rivers’ confluence. One track heads up one river and the other track heads up the other river. It was completed in 1909 and is truly an impressive engineering and construction feat. We also guessed, like the “Loop”, it provided a great motivation for air travel, as in “Sure this is cool and all, but there’s gotta be a better way.”
The next little town was Crescent Mills, a town tucked into the edge of the Indian Valley through which Indian Creek runs as it travels over Indian Falls. The green valley was picturesque, framed by mountains, some with great rock formations, around all the edges and completed by a cloudless blue sky. It was also picturesquely FLAT! We haven’t had much flat on this route and it was good to refresh our memories that we really can zip along when we’re not on an incline.
The zipping however did not last as we ran out of valley and pedaled up the last short hill to Greenville. Greenville is a nifty little mountain town complete with a good looking high school whose mascot is the….Indians. We turned around at a real grocery store (not a mini-mart). We knew it was a real grocery store because they had a BBQ going outside with free Tri-Tip samples. Andy said it was the best Tri-Tip ever.
After the Tri-Tip detour we headed back to Quincy and enjoyed the same views only in reverse. When we got back to the mini-mart in Quincy we were: 1.) relieved our car hadn’t been towed and; 2.) deemed the very friendly attendant MVP of the day especially when she gave us permission to put one of the Sierra Cascade decals on the mini-mart window. Check it out next time you’re in Quincy.
The second day, we drove back out to Greenville, and rode 28 miles to a Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) access area. Both days were some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen on any ride – gorgeous rocks, green fields (at least for now) surrounded by mountains, a volcano (!), and the wonderful Indian Creek. Days like this leave us wondering why it is that we bike anywhere else.
Although there were no railroad wonders today we did have one of those magical moments where you turn a corner and there it is, a giant volcano filling up the entire horizon. In this case it was Lassen Peak which is a great landmark and proof that we are making progress towards Canada.
Shortly after the Lassen sighting, near the shore of Lake Almanor, we stopped for a break before the last climb of the day, and we were surprised to have another tandem pull up alongside us. We had a great conversation with Steve and Linda, a couple of local retirees, who ride their tandem about 6,000 miles a year – yep, really. That’s not a typo. They also ride single bikes, and Steve also does mountain biking. They have a travel trailer that they attach to a van Steve has configured to carry all the bikes and they travel all over. They also have bikes, in Steve’s native Holland, that a relative keeps for them. So, they have excellent pedal adventures there, too. What a great example of retirement living!
Feeling completely inadequate we rode the last 7 miles up hill to the PCT and turned around. We didn’t see any of the hikers we met back in Southern CA. We can only guess that they’re still in SoCal so maybe we’re not that inadequate.
The way back was rather uneventful, with two notable exceptions, as we were once again treated to the same views only backwards. The first event on the return was when we stopped to chat with an apparently lost cross-country biker that was headed the opposite direction. We offered suggestions on how to get to the essentials: lodging, mini-marts, and ice cream shops; but he seemed unconcerned with where he was or where he was going. He said something to the effect of it’s impossible for him to be lost because he didn’t know where he was going. Not exactly a “Railroad Wonder” but that comment left us wondering.
The second marvelous highlight of the day was that we ended the ride at the same place we turned around yesterday, the “real” grocery store. They had the Tri-Tip again! Better than yesterday according to Andy, which makes it the best Tri-Tip EVER! The boy needs to get out more.
In short, we covered 50 “official” miles, and 100 total in two days of relaxed riding. During the off-time, we enjoyed some great evenings in Johnsville. We hope to add one more preview day before the next section, but this was an excellent way to spend Memorial Day weekend.
Miles – 30 Total Miles – 80 Feet Climbed – 4,016 Total Feet Climbed – 7,046
Michael from Santa Cruz
Jeff from Northfield, VT
Brett from Steamboat Springs, CO
We learned plenty from Chapter 1. The food in California is excellent, California is a very hilly state, and don’t start a 14 day trip with a 3,000 foot climb. The goal for today is to reach Lassen Pass, a 3,000 foot climb up to 8,514 feet. That way we will be able to start the next 14 day leg with a 3,000 foot descent on the backside of Lassen Peak rather than a day of climbing to reach the pass. So we packed up the Subaru early on June 29th and drove the nearly 2 hours to the end of our last day trip where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses Highway 36 outside of Chester. We parked the car in a conspicuous spot in the lot so that our veteran transporters from the Yosemite retrieval, Jan and Mickey would be able to park in the same lot, switch cars, drive to the pass where they would meet us, and we’d all return back to the parking lot. Simple.
It was still early in the morning when we got to the empty dirt parking lot so we took our time taking care of pre-ride checklists and getting the bike ready. The day was spectacular. A typical Northern California Sierra morning with a clear blue sky, crisp still air, and plenty of big Pines and Firs gathered in the silence. Andy was focused on his routine of attaching the front tire (righty-tighty, lefty-loosey…) when he suddenly heard a voice from the woods call out “Hey, hey…can you mail a letter for me?” After a (very) brief first thought of, “I think I can still run a little faster than Kim”, He quickly settled on a more clearly formed second thought, “Holy moly, PCT through hikers!” Out of the woods emerged Jeff from Northfield, VT who had been sleeping on the dirt just a short distance from where we parked. Turns out he had hiked 40 miles the day before and been on the trail for 55 days.
A minute of two later Brett came walking across the road to join us. He looked like he was just taking a day hike in the woods but he too had been on the trail for nearly 2 months. We had more gear on our bike for our 5 hour day trip than they did on their backs for their multi-month, 2,650-mile trek. A moment later a truck dropped off Michael from Santa Cruz who approached as though he “…were walking onto a yacht”. He had the strategically dipped hat to complete the look but had spent the night in a hotel in Chester and hitched a ride back to the trail to resume his adventure. We think he was a little better financed than the two younger guys that were living in the forest. It’s always very humbling to talk to these hikers that will spend about 2 months living out of a backpack with only their feet as transportation so we took it as long as we could, offered them a beer (declined), and hit the road.
Super-cool item at the PCT crossing: someone had left, 2 cool chests, stocked with soda and snacks, for the through hikers. Awesome! Jeff and Brett looked like six year-olds on Christmas morning unwrapping cookies while slurping down A&W root beer. Michael was less impressed. We think his tummy was still full from the #1 over-easy and short stack combo he probably had at the local Chester diner. Or maybe it was Huevos Rancheros he was still picking out of his teeth, either way he was uninterested.
Mistake #1 of the day: We both had on our Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream jerseys and we became pretty nervous as the boys talked about how long it had been since they had ice cream. Everything was fine until they simultaneously took on the searching-for-ships-on-the-horizon look, yammered on about ice cream, and finally a little blob of drool began to collect in the corner of their mouths. Sensing danger, and being the finely honed tandem team that we are, we looked at each other and immediately knew what the other was thinking: how desperate does a man become after having gone without ice cream for 2 months? And “I wonder if I can run faster than you?” It was then that we alertly pointed out the fine cookies that were in the cool chests. The boys snapped out of their funk and resumed devouring Snickerdoodles and Ginger Snaps. Another disaster averted and we hadn’t even started pedaling yet.
Ah, back on the open (windless) road again. The first 20 miles of the ride today were generally rolling hills and light traffic. Perfect! We continued through the forest past some old resorts that looked like they did a good business back in the 60s and 70s but were a little slower in the present, some much slower. We passed one old resort that looked like it had recently burned to the ground, The Fire Mountain Resort, which had apparently lived up (or down) to its name. Then, Kim called out a familiar “Car back” and a white Subaru zoomed past and then stopped in front of us. It was our faithful transporters, Jan and Mickey, except there was only one problem: wrong car. Our guess about “conspicuous” parking turned out to be incorrect and the girls missed the parking lot and the car. We had a good laugh and they headed back to get the car while we continued on our way to Lassen Park.
We had a quick pit stop at Child’s Meadows to grab some Gatorade before we started the 18 mile and 3,600 foot climb we had left to do. About an hour after the stop we came to the park road turnoff for Lassen Park. We turned right to continue the climb and enter the park when we noticed another Subaru zoom past us headed to Mineral, the next town on the highway but the wrong direction to get to the park, and, more importantly, since it was our Subaru, the wrong direction to pick us up. Right car this time but wrong direction. Oh well, they’ll find us eventually. They always do.
Further ahead on the park road we came upon a large grove of Sugar Pine trees ripe with huge pine cones. If pine cones could take steroids this is what they would look like. Gigantic, 18 inch long cones that put all the other pine cones to shame. It turns out this is one of the larger Sugar Pine groves in the Sierra and it was a highlight, especially for Kim, a long time pine cone fan. Shortly after the Sugar Pine grove, a Subaru, our Subaru, zipped past us. We assumed they noticed the tandem riders. Right direction, but would they find/remember the rendezvous point? They always do. Keep pedaling.
Up, up, up we continued to the new visitor’s center in Lassen Park for a much deserved R&R on the back porch which has a fantastic view of what’s left of the middle of Mt. Tehema, a huge volcano that blew about 350,000 years ago leaving several peaks, active geo-thermal areas, and many rock formations including Lassen Peak. The weather was perfect. Now that we were away from those pesky over-achieving through hikers we could bask in a little attention from the staff at the visitor center snack bar. We obliged the manager who had us pose with the bike while he snapped a couple pictures to put on the Facebook page for the visitor center. He even had us sign a release so that he could use our photo. Take that through hikers! After we dispensed with the paparazzi and dutifully acknowledged our fans we continued with the last 7 steep miles to the pass.
The ride through the park was sublime. No traffic, smooth roads, no wind, crystal clear air and skies. The line that comes to mind (for both of you 10,000 Maniacs fans) is that no matter how hard one tries “…there’s no way to divide the beauty of the sky from the wild western plain”. All the way through Lassen, on this day, we could look in any direction and be grateful for the perfectness of the moment.
On we pedaled up to Emerald Lake for a photo op and to soak in some more beauty, and then to Lake Helen where we went halfway around the lake and then peeled off up a pretty steep incline. As we’ve come to expect on the Sierra Cascade route we turned the next corner and were greeted by what appeared to be an even steeper pitch. Ugh, embrace the climb, keep pedaling. We spent a lot of time in first gear today, 5 mph, so why not a little more. But what’s that in the distance? A Subaru! Our Subaru, just beyond the “Lassen Pass 8,511 feet” sign with Jan and Mickey eagerly waiting for us. They always find us. Another great day and now we can look forward to starting the next chapter with a 20 mile descent from the pass. Hooray!
Day 4 – 8/30/14 (61 miles)
Total Miles – 141 Feet Climbed – 1,145 Total Feet Climbed – 8,191
We started the “real” part of Chapter 3 today, with excellent help from James and Macaela. They joined us in our Subaru as we left from Grass Valley on Friday morning, and helped Andy get everything ready to go in Johnsville. We had an excellent dinner at the Iron Door on Friday evening, and even got a special tour of the upstairs artifacts (including a corset lined with whale bones) from co-owner Bonnie.
After a quick night’s sleep, we were up and on our way just after 7:00 Saturday morning. We stopped for breakfast in Quincy at Patti’s Thunder, instead of our usual stop at the Courthouse Café, and enjoyed a yummy variety of omelets, breakfast burritos and French toast.
We made a quick trip through Greenville and Chester, passed the PCT parking spot we’d used in previous days, and made it to our Day 3 stop at the top of Lassen Summit (elevation 8,511 feet). We were able to get everything loaded-up pretty quickly, and Kim even remembered (with reminders from a note, Jan and Mickey’s voices playing in her head from Friday, and James and Macaela gently coaching) to get the Nor Cal rock at the top of the pass.
With hugs and waves, remembering to turn on the flashing lights, and putting on jackets and gloves to keep us warm (it was very windy and about mid-50s), we started pedaling downhill! This was our special treat after scrambling to put in the three prelude days to start this chapter. It was brisk, beautiful, and speedy! We covered the first 17 miles in about 45 minutes. The scenery was lovely, the cars were friendly, and we crossed Hat Creek at least 5 times as it wound through the valley. Just past Old Station, we passed a retired guy riding his bike home from the grocery store. As we rode by and said “hi”, he shouted “that’s cheating!” Kim waived back with a thumbs-up and shouted “absolutely!” So, we now have our first Shouter of Mexican Mounties.
After just a few more miles, we hit the challenging section of the ride. It was difficult, not due to hills, or road quality, or traffic, but because we found ourselves riding through the 32,000+ acres burned in early August in the EIler fire. Neither of us had ever seen so much land and trees burned so recently. The amazing part was the houses and buildings that were, clearly, saved by firefighters. All of the area around the buildings would be burned, but the house untouched. There were numerous signs of gratitude hung along the road, thanking the squads for their efforts.
Just a few miles after we left the fire area, we pedaled into the tiny town of Burney, and found our home for the evening at the Burney Motel. The owners were very nice, had updated the rooms fairly recently, and provided excellent internet service. As a special bonus, Andy’s sister, Ann, her husband, John, and their adult-kids, Ian and Emma, drove up from Redding after a hike in Lassen Park and joined us for dinner at the Blackberry Patch restaurant, just across the street. Best canned vegetables ever!
So, it was a great start to this adventure, with a serious reminder to be fire-safe, all the time.
Day 5 – 8/31/14 (63 miles)
Total Miles – 204 Feet Climbed – 3.842 Total Feet Climbed – 12,033
After a good night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast at the McDonald’s across the street, we started pedaling at about 7:30 this morning. After a bit of backtracking we re-joined Highway 89 and enjoyed the nice wide shoulder and an easy cruise down to Lake Britton, the ultimate destination of Hat Creek – which started flowing from Hat Lake in Lassen Park.
We had our first critter-siting of a large, Red Tail Hawk, and started our first real climb of the chapter of about 1,000 feet in 8 miles. The traffic was busier, but still friendly, and it was a totally lovely morning. We got to give a number of thumbs-up-happy waves to the firefighter and hot shot trucks heading in both directions.
After we reached the top of Dead Horse Summit (4,505 feet) we noticed a bit of smoke, and it just kept getting smokier. As we coasted down the hill towards Bartle, CA, we noticed a small mini-mart with a restaurant attached. We planned to go in and buy a candy bar to incentivize them to fill our water bottles, and instead ended up eating breakfast Part II – yummy French toast. We also talked with the people at the other two tables and heard that the smoke is from a fire near Happy Camp, CA that’s burned over 44,000 acres.
The breakfast folks also told us about a group of bikers headed south along the same highway, and we wondered if they were part of an Adventure Cycling tour. Back on the road, we kept on the lookout, and within about 5 miles saw a small group of riders, without panniers, and learned they were part of the tour, but they didn’t stop. A few more miles up, there was a Vista Point lot, and we saw a couple of bikers stopped there, so we pulled-in to chat.
The woman cyclist was the Sweeper and a staff person for Timberline Tours. They’d started a 39-day journey in Port Angeles, WA, and were following a bit of the Sierra Cascades route, and then turning west to end up in Santa Barbara for wine-tasting. There were nine people in the group, and it looked like fun!
Back on the road for just a few more miles, we saw two more bikers coming towards us – bikes loaded with front and rear paniers, miscellaneous bags lashed on, orange flags, and a Mickey Mouse attached to the woman’s handlebars. Clearly serious bikers. They pulled over to a turn-out area, and Andy steered across the road to join them. It was a husband and wife, at least in their mid-60s, from the Netherlands. They’d started in Vancouver, WA and are planning to finish in Phoenix, AZ before flying home at the end of October. We spent several minutes talking with them, trading information on road quality and traffic, and having them say their names into our digital recorder. One sounded like “Xcackkhi Ygladiaum, and the other like “Biachisi Algomamd”. We’ll remember them as Chet and Betty.
Back on the road, after about 6 miles, we reached McCloud and enjoyed a Frap at the mini mart – we know, “how unique”! Then we “enjoyed” a climb of about 1,300 feet in 4.5 miles. Fortunately the road had a wide shoulder and the paving was excellent. After the summit it was an easy coast into Mt. Shasta City, where we’d been for daughter Drew’s high school snowboard championships a few years ago. Finishing today’s ride also marked the end of our pedaling the full length (356 miles) of Highway 89 – from end-to-end.
As we neared our lodging for the night, we heard Shouter #2 of the trip calling out “she’s not pedaling”. Somebody must be Twittering or SnapChatting that around! After checking-in at the Best Western Tree House, and eating almost a whole medium pizza at the Round Table across the street, we’re getting ready for tomorrow – a 78 mile adventure. Keep your fingers crossed!
Day 6 – 9/1/14 (82 miles)
Total Miles – 285 Feet Climbed – 3,760 Total Feet Climbed – 15,793
After some leftover pizza and our free breakfast buffet at the hotel, we got a pretty early start, rolling out of the parking lot at just after 7:00 this morning. We were quickly onto North Old Stage Road, which lead us through beautiful trees, past lovely homes, and connected us with Old Highway 99. It was very low traffic, beautifully clear, and no wind. After crossing over and under Highway 5, we’d hoped to stop in Grenada for a rest/snack time, but the town was basically deserted, so we pedaled on.
The next town was Montague, and most of the businesses there were closed, too. Fortunately, there was a Shell station that was basically a grocery store and deli/bakery/lunch counter, complete with a couple of tables to sit and relax. So, with our Fraps in hand, we took a nice break. Back on the road, we headed into an area which looked like a Nevada valley, with mountains all around. We could still see the north side of Mt. Shasta, with much less smoke around it, so we could actually see a bit of snow.
As we pedaled along two Red Tail Hawks came into view and then took off – flying in the same direction, and about the same speed we were pedaling – so, we got to cruise along with them. It was pretty cool! We crossed over the Klamath River, which seemed to be flowing nicely, and arrived in Hornbook, where we’d also hoped to have a rest stop, but this town was closed-up as well. This was a bit more daunting, since we’d hoped to refill water bottles here before a section of climbing about 7 miles on Highway 5 (since there weren’t alternate routes).
Fortunately, the shoulder was quite wide, and, due to the significant hill, for most of the time there was a “slow truck” lane. We left the highway at Exit 1, just after crossing into Oregon, our second state of the trip, after more than 1,300 miles. We were back on Old Highway 99, and could see the considerable amount of climbing ahead. The bright side was that the road was good, the rocks were interesting, and there were very few cars. So, as usual, we just kept going. As we arrived at the summit we could see a few people picking what we thought might be apples out of a tree by the side of the road.
We said hi as we pedaled by, and then came to a quick stop when the woman asked if we needed any water. The Baker family became MVPs of the day as they handed us two cold bottles of water! It turned out they were gathering Elderberries that the son was going to use to make wine. He’d made Jalapeño wine last year, and was going to try something different. After thoroughly enjoying our water, and wishing them well with the brewing, and with many thanks for their kindness, we resumed pedaling.
Very quickly we were in pure bliss as we coasted down a beautifully-curvy, shady road. After just a few miles we crossed under Highway 5 and found a great stop, Callahan’s Mountain Lodge. It was a beautiful stop with friendly people, and all of the water bottles were refilled! Back on the road, we wrapped-up the last 10 miles into Ashland, and found our way to The Palm Hotel, where we’d stayed on other visits here. We had a yummy dinner with friends, Cheyenne and Nick at the Caldera Brewery, and bought a variety of candies and cookies at the nearby 7-11.
We’re going to have a rest day tomorrow, and, perhaps catch a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Then we’ll be back on the road.
Day 7 & 8 – 9/3/14 (74 miles)
Total Miles – 359 Feet Climbed – 5,594 Total Feet Climbed – 21,787
After taking yesterday off for bike maintenance, and getting to watch 4 episodes of the original Batman show, we prepared for our big day by loading the bike with 7 liters of water, 4 bananas, a turkey wrap and half a roast beef sandwich. The bike was worked on by Isaac and Jeff at Siskiyou Cycles, and the odd sound and clicking in Kim’s pedals was totally eliminated. We were on the road shortly after 7:00, and started our first climb of the day, and longest climb of the chapter, after just 2 miles. We climbed about 3,200 in 12 miles. It was plenty!
The best part of arriving at the summit (other than no longer climbing) was being back into the lovely forest. We saw a few more large hawks, which we think are Red Tails, but Kim wants to check with bird-watcher Karen to be sure. It was pretty chilly in the shade, and we kept our long gloves on and jackets zipped for the brisk downhill. We saw very few cars, and were passed by a few gravel trucks and log trucks. At one point we’d pulled into a driveway to rest and two gravel trucks, going in opposite directions, passed by simultaneously. We were glad to have the view, instead of being on the bike.
The rest of the time we were free to enjoy the views and lovely countryside. We think we may have set a record for the number of cattle-guards we crossed – at least 8, and maybe 10 – since we were in free-range cattle zone. We passed several groups grazing at the side of the road, and snapped this picture of Mom and Calf as she worked to stare us down.
About 35 miles into the ride, we took a right turn onto and excellent highway with wonderful, wide, shoulder, complete with rumble-strip separating us from traffic. We were thrilled… for about 300 feet. Then we realized that our next turn was right there. And, even more thrill-crushing, we noticed that there were trucks at the intersection and that there were two people stopping traffic. It turned out that the road was in the process of being chip-sealed, with our side of the road covered in oil, waiting for trucks to come and dump sand.
Since the traffic was restricted, and a pilot car was leading people through the area, we were able to ride on the left side of the road, on a mini-shoulder that had not been chip-sealed, and was in excellent, smooth condition. It was pretty weird to ride on that side, but definitely better than “our” side of the road. This continued for about 20 miles, with the pilot car passing us only once, with just two cars following.
As we reached the end of the work, and crossed our last cattle-guard of the day, we pulled into a gated driveway – complete with chain secured by 10 padlocks (yes, Kim counted them) – and enjoyed our various treats and lots of water. It turned out to be another episode of Perfect Timing, as two street-sweepers (tidying-up the sand from the paving) came up the road, sweeping sand everywhere, and turned around at the cattle-guard, clearing the road we were about to ride on.
Refueled, we were back on the road with a few more climbs, and some rolling miles to lead us into the town of Prospect. We had reserved lodging at the Prospect Hotel, which has been in operation since 1915. It’s beautifully maintained by the current owners, Fred and Karen, and they also have a restaurant that serves excellent food. Andy loved his wild Salmon and Kim her veggie lasagna, and we both loved the excellent carrot cake for dessert.
Tomorrow’s goal is Chemult – about 62 miles.
Day 9 – 9/4/14 (64 miles)
Total Miles – 423 Feet Climbed – 4,144 Total Feet Climbed – 25,931
After a comfy night at the Prospect Hotel and a mini-breakfast of trail mix, we were on the road by 7:00. It was much chillier than expected. Our goal was to have “real” breakfast at Beckie’s Café, about 11 miles up the road. Once again there were huge, amazing trees and little traffic on an excellent road. We crossed the Rogue River, and various tributaries, several times, and were reminded of our pedal along the Delores River in Colorado.
The unexpected, and undesirable, aspect of the morning was The Wind. It swirled in various directions, all of them seeming to strike us head-first. Since it was a morning of climbing, it was especially challenging, and the wind was strong enough to almost bring us to a stop as we climbed the steeper portions of the grade. We did take a few intentional stops to rest, and we snapped this picture of Andy investigating (at Kim’s request) the Pumice soil that was created by the Mt. Mazama eruption (about 180 times bigger than the Mt. St. Helens eruption) – about 7,700 years ago.
When we reached Union Creek, after about 11 miles, we were welcomed into Beckie’s and had lots of sugar-fuel. We both had Scratch French Toast (huge, thick slices of cinnamon-swirl bread) and a scrambled egg. Kim warmed-up a bit with a yummy hot chocolate. While dining, we got to talk with the couple at the table next to ours who were visiting from a small town outside of Sydney, Australia. They were planning to be in the US for eight weeks. They’ll be flying to Boston in a few days to spend the rest of their time enjoying New England Fall colors. We’re planning to be in touch with them when we head to New Zealand for a cycle adventure (someday…).
After breakfast, and a stop at the mini-store across the street, we were back on the road. Little did we know that it was the last bit of civilization for about 50 miles. Through the wind, over hill and dale, and more hill, we spotted no creatures. They were clearly smarter and had decided to stay in their warmhomes this morning. We did take in some lovely views, including this one of Mt. Thielsen.
When Highway 138 connected to Highway 97 we found a couple of places to stop. Kim went into the diner/market to look for some snacks, and found that the market section was closed, and only the diner section was open. The timing was perfect, though, as she met another cross-country cyclist who’d just finished his lunch and was heading out the door. We spent more than a few minutes talking with him, hearing about his journey, learning where he was from (Placerville, CA!), and where he was planning to spend this winter (Grass Valley, CA!!). After he resumed pedaling, we went back inside and dined.
Then, we were on Highway 97 for the rest of our day. It was a decent road, with a pretty wide shoulder, complete with rumble-strip, but very busy, with lots of truck traffic. . Occasionally there would be strings of 4 big-rigs passing by in both directions. Fortunately, most of the time, it was simply cars. The best part was that it was mostly flat, and a bit of downhill, until we reached our destination of the day, Chemult.
We checked-in to The Dawson House Lodge – “the newest, oldest hotel in Oregon” – established in 1929. Fortunately for us, the rooms had been updated within the last few years, and ours was towards the back so (at least some) of the truck noise was reduced. At the diner where we had lunch, and at our Lodge check-in, we’d asked for advice about where to have dinner. Both people recommended The Chalet, so that’s where we headed. And, wow, it was just like being back in the mid-west. Kim’s salad was iceberg lettuce with one thin slice of tomato. The vegetable was a 3-inch section of corn cob, which appeared to have come from a frozen sack, and was sitting in a small bowl of melted margarine. The best part of the meal were the baked potatoes – which were real, and baked.
We stocked-up on breakfast items – including a Greek yogurt (!) – at the truck stop across from the lodge. Yummy!!
Day 10 – 9/5/14 (71 miles)
Total Miles – 494 Feet Climbed – 925 Total Feet Climbed – 26,856
With a delicious breakfast (purchased from the truck stop last night), we were off to an early start. It turns out that, although it’s convenient to be across from a truck stop, it’s not very quiet. After all, if there aren’t trucks using the stop, it wouldn’t be so well stocked… right? We also had the joy of the alarm clock going crazy at midnight, which made us both think it was wake-up time, at least for 20 seconds.
It was a very chilly start. About 28 degrees. So we piled on all of the warmers and jackets and gloves that we didn’t really think we’d need, but packed anyway. Thank goodness. Then we headed out for our adventure on Highway 97 all the way to Bend.
We moved at a pretty good clip on the excellent paved shoulder, surrounded by lodge pole pines instead of the huge Doug Firs and Ponderosas of the last few days. There was plenty of traffic, and the team effect was great as Kim could keep track of the numerous big-rigs, and Andy could pay attention to the road and the route. It was pretty close to a flat ride for us – only climbing about 925 feet over the whole 71 miles – so we clipped along at an average speed of over 17 mph.
We arrived at our first mini mart in Crescent, and felt a bit out of place in our florescent bike gear while all of the other patrons were in cammo. This included a couple of bow hunters who pulled in to show-off their prize from the prior night to the mini mart staff (also in cammo). On our way out of town we had short-lived bliss on a newly-paved bike path, for about ½ a mile. Little did we know, but there would be more bike paths in our future.
Just a few miles down the road, we pedaled into La Pine. We were hoping for a brunch stop, but didn’t see one, or any signs for one, so, as usual, we stopped at the mini-mart, got a couple of Fraps and bananas and camped on a bench out front, enjoying the warm sun as it rose above the trees. As we rested, a type of car we’d never seen before pulled into the parking space just in front of us. Andy jumped up to greet the couple, and learned that their brilliant red convertible was an Intermeccanica Italia. Only 411 of them were made, and about 300 are still running – probably thanks to their Ford V-8 engine.
After the spiffy car left, Andy and had a lengthy conversation with a local who gave him every bit of information about the road head, and where he should lie in the grass and let dragon flies land on his nose. Then we headed out again, with our next destination our goal for the day, Bend. We had some great views of Mt. Bachelor and The Sisters, and the amazingly-huge Paulina Peak surrounded by piles of lava rocks as we cruised by Newberry National Volcanic Monument in Deschutes National Forest.
As we approached our destination, we learned how serious the citizens of Bend are about their bike paths. On the main thoroughfare through town there’s a bike path – which is paved a different color than the traffic lanes, with bike graphics painted on it, and numerous bike path signs. With all of the Friday afternoon traffic, it was a great place to be as we navigated our way to our hotel – Bend Inn and Suites. We had late lunch at Applebee’s and a wonderful dinner at The Riverhouse restaurant, on the deck out back, with the Deschutes River flowing by, yummy food, and excellent service from our waiter, JB.
Tomorrow will be a short day, only 35 miles, so we’ll have some playtime at Suttle Lake. Definitely ready for that!
Day 11 - 9/6/14 (34 miles)
Total Miles – 529 Feet Climbed – 840 Total Feet Climbed – 27,696
After a comfortable, relaxing, and quiet night at the Bend Inn & Suites, we had a late breakfast, a casual start to the day, and weren’t pedaling until almost 9:00. Wow, talk about vacation!!
That is until we realized that there must be a Ducks game in Eugene, as we were passed by seemingly endless streams of fans headed that way. Yep, “car-back-infinity”. The scenery was beautiful – when we could take a glance between groups of cars. We caught a good view of Mt. Jefferson, which we first thought was Mt. Hood, but was still beautiful.
After about 16 miles we reached the town of Sisters, which was the site of a folk music festival, so the streets were packed. Just as Andy said he’d love to see a bakery, instead of a mini-mart, we spotted Sisters Bakery. We wove our way through the traffic, waited in a pretty long line (although the service was quick), and then Andy devoured Marion berry coffee cake and a cinnamon twist, and Kim delighted in a glazed Marion berry biscuit and a classic sourdough donut. When we bike, it’s very difficult to order just one pastry.
Back on the road, we quickly pedaled our last 19 miles to Suttle Lake, and The Lodge at Suttle Lake. We were early for check-in so we camped on the back deck, with this lovely view, and then decided it was time for lunch. As we were waiting for our potato-leek soup, and other biker joined us. Randal is riding from Vancouver to San Francisco, on his recumbent bike, with his son driving the sag wagon. He’s working on a full-US ride, hopefully in conjunction with Kahn Academy, to combine school work and fitness by making presentations in schools, and having them use math, and geography and other subjects. His goal is for students, and their families, improve their fitness, and reduce healthcare costs.
After lunch we took ourselves on a tour of the resort, and met the General Manager who was out walking, too. We learned that the buildings could be ours for a mere 2.9 million – with a 20-year land lease from the Forest Service. The owner built everything in 2005, and has discovered that running the business form Tucson, AZ, isn’t very efficient, or profitable.
Following dinner on the deck, we watched the second half of the Ducks game, watching them come back and beat the Spartys. When in Oregon, do as the Oregonians do.
Tomorrow will be another rest-pedal day as we head 45 miles to Detroit (Oregon… we hope)
Day 12 (9/7/14)
Miles – 45 Total Miles – 574 Feet Climbed – 1,903 Total Feet Climbed – 29,599
With a short-mileage day ahead of us, we took our time and actually had breakfast before we started pedaling. We were on the road at about 8:30. The first 6 miles were a climb of about 1,400 feet up Santiam Pass. It was amazingly busy, with lots of traffic in both directions – headed home from the Folk Music Fest in our lane, and home from the Ducks’ game in the opposite direction.
Near the summit, we passed a bike-resident guy that we’d met on the road yesterday, and seen setting up camp near Suttle Lake yesterday evening – pulling a trailer with a big dog and a little dog, and all of his supplies. He’d left the lake earlier than we did, and was setting up his folding chair for a rest stop. We checked to be sure he had enough water, which he did, and then continued our climb.
We took a rest-stop of our own at a scenic view lot with lots of info on the surrounding mountains, including Mt. Washington, and the B&B Complex fires which burned almost 91,000 acres in 2003. Back on the road, we reached the summit, at 4,817 feet, and basically concluded our climbing for the day. After a chilly, but quick (and easy!) descent, we took a dining break at the Marion Forks Restaurant. It’s a great spot where Marion Creek meets the Santiam River. The only downside (for Kim) was that it’s filled with hunting “trophies” – including the biggest moose head ever.
Back on the road, we cruised along the north fork of the Santiam River all the way to Detroit, our home for the evening. We’d made such a quick trip that our room at Lodge at Detroit Lake wasn’t quite ready. So, we relaxed on our porch for a while, and then were thrilled to see our room – beautifully done and very comfy. Excellent!
After moving in and getting cleaned-up, we had some actual vacation time – watching the 49-ers and Cowboys game while we ate Hint-of-Lime chips. Then we headed to the nearby Korner Post Restaurant for dinner. Andy had his 5th egg of the day, along with a hamburger patty and hash-browns (his new favorite meal), and Kim had a yummy grilled cheese sandwich with homemade tomato soup.
As we dined we had a few conversations with the Korner’s owner, Rick. After serving in the Army as a member of the honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery, and as a machinist in Portland, he purchased the Korner in 2000. He shared pictures of the year they had 13 feet of snow – and didn’t see their yard until after the 4th of July, and stories of how the area has changed from having multiple saw mills and an active logging industry to the current vacation-location industry.
He’s not abandoned his machinist skills, and has crafted a number of motorcycle statues, including this one. He loves motorcycles and has a whole area of the restaurant devoted to them – photos and posters of Evil Knievel, record covers with motorcycle art, a motorcycle made out of wood, you name it, he’s got it.
After dinner, we relaxed with another football game – Colts and Broncos – as we prepare for a big day tomorrow – about 70 miles to Government Camp. We’ve been told that it will be a lovely, low traffic ride. Sounds perfect.
Day 13 (9/8/14)
Miles – 69 Total Miles – 642 Feet Climbed – 6,168 Total Feet Climbed – 35,767
We started off bright and early from Detroit after a classic breakfast of Frap, protein bars and yogurt. We started with a gradual uphill that followed the Breitenbush River. We are officially in the Cascade Mountain Range. The forest is very thick with fir trees, hemlocks, and pines. Below the canopy of the conifers there are dogwoods and ferns galore! We took one break today in a grove of rhododendrons. We must be getting close to the Columbia River.
It was a big-climb day today, as we made our way along rivers and over ridgelines, from Detroit (elevation about 1,500 feet) to Government Camp (elevation about 4,000 feet). It was also one of the lowest traffic days, with the best roads and excellent scenery. It was over 60 miles from our hotel to the closest mini-mart, and for about 15 miles of that we were on a perfectly-smooth, one-lane road – basically our personal bike-path! Luckily we only encountered a couple of cars and a couple of motorcycles on the entire stretch.
We had mixed emotions as we emerged from the woods and found ourselves back on a busy two-lane highway. We were sad to leave the peacefulness and scenery of the less-traveled roads, but we were greeted by a sign that informed us that Government Camp, our home for the night, was only 12 miles away. The quality of the roads we’ve ridden on in Oregon has been outstanding, and this one was no exception. With wide, smooth shoulders we were in great shape for the final leg of the day.
But first… we had to make the obligatory stop at the only min-mart of the day. We had planned to make it a brief stop, but ended-up staying for 30 minutes. While we were there, Bruce, from Scotland, pulled-in to the mart, followed by Jeff from San Diego shortly after. They are both solo riders that are doing the same route we are – just from North to South. We traded notes for a while, and Kim snapped this picture. Then, we were back on the road for the last 5 miles to Government Camp.
We arrived at our motel, carefully toted everything up the stairs to our room, and then headed next door to the Mt. Hood Brewing Company. Our server, Scotty, was excellent and the food was yummy – so yummy, in fact that we also went back for dinner.
Tomorrow we should cross the Columbia River into Washington!
Day 14 (9/9/14)
Miles – 67 Total Miles – 709 Feet Climbed – 3,022 Total Feet Climbed – 38,789
After an ok night’s sleep – during which we could hear all the walking on the floor above ours, all the running water, etc, we woke to gray skies and light rain – our first rain of the trip. We had the usual continental breakfast in the lobby, and did some checking of the weather with the person at the front desk. The forecast was for mostly sunny, and the desk person said that it would likely be much sunnier and drier after we got over the next summit.
So we gave a bit of time for things to start to clear, which they did, then we toted everything back down the stairs, put on the protective gear, and headed out. After a brief, chilly, damp downhill, we turned on to our first major climb of the day. After less than a mile we saw a sign warning of bicycle traffic ahead, and shortly after that we saw a cyclist turn into a parking area just up the road from us. As we reached the area, we saw that it was totally setup as a bike rest-staging area.
As we continued to climb we saw a few cyclists, then a few more, then, after we’d reached Bennett Pass (4,674 ft) and started our coast down the hill, we came upon more and more riders. We waved and called out encouragement as they were climbing and we were coasting. We even saw 4 tandem bikes. A record-setting day!
As we came to the bottom of the hill we crossed a road where the cyclers were turning left onto the road to climb. After we navigated across, we slowed down and asked a police officer on a motor cycle, who’d stopped to direct traffic, what ride the group was doing. He told us it was Cycle Oregon – a seven-day, fully-supported, excursion that goes through a different part of Oregon each year. Fully supported? Hmmm.
This year they’re riding about 450 miles and climbing about 32,000 feet, as they tour “The Magnificent Seven” – Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, Mt Jefferson, Mt. Washington and The Three Sisters. Here’s a link: http://www.cycleoregon.com/week-ride
We continued our ride through a beautiful day – the sun came out, and the views of Mt. Hood and Mt Adams were excellent. As we travelled into the Hood River Valley, where there were numerous apple and pear orchards, we spotted the Wake-n-Baked shop. It had just been open for 15 days, since the owner/mom and her son had totally remodeled a mini mart and created a bakery and coffee shop. The Blondies were delicious – Kim had two.
After the break, we continued on our way. We had about 11 miles of real adventure as we pedaled along the Columbia River on Highway 84, with lots of trucks and other traffic. Then we arrived at the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, paid our $1 fee (50 cents per biker) and snapped this photo after we had crossed the Columbia River, confirmed we hadn’t soiled ourselves, and entered the final state for Mexican Mounties.
The bridge-crossing was a bit of an adventure. It’s 1,858 feet long, and narrow, and most of the 1,858 feet is a metal-grate road surface, so, from the bike, we could see through the bridge all the way down to the water which looked like a VERY long way. The high winds combined with the metal grate road made for an extra exciting (some would say terrifying) crossing. We got our $1 worth and then some. It’s also the official place for PCT hikers to cross the river, so there are walkers on the bridge, too, one of which we saw as we crossed.
At the other side we had a short, mostly flat, few miles of pedaling to Stevenson, WA, and our accommodations at the Roadway Inn. After doing a bit of laundry and cleaning-up, we walked to the nearby Big River Grill for dinner. Kim loved her homemade walnut burger, and Andy raved about his grilled Salmon.
Tomorrow we’re planning to do about 30 miles to get us to the top of the first hill for Chapter 4, so we can start next spring’s ride with a downhill, too. Then, we’ll be on “pause” until the adventure starts again! Thanks so much for all the support and encouragement as we’ve undertaken this adventure/project. The best part of each ride has been the people we’ve met. And the best part of coming home is catching-up with the people we know and love!
Day 15 (9/10/14)
Miles – 28 Total Miles – 737 Feet Climbed – 3,140 Total Feet Climbed – 41,929
While the motel had a beautiful view of the mountains on the Oregon side of the river, we didn’t realize that the Roadway Inn should have been called the Train Track Inn, until after we’d checked-in. It turns out that we were less than 100 yards from a highly-travelled track, and we got to hear the multiple warning whistles, every time a train went by, which was pretty frequently.
We were refreshed by a lovely sunrise as the rays reflected on the river and through the mist, and gathered everything together for our final section of this chapter. After a buffet breakfast of Raisin Bran, we had a quick downhill where we turned off the main highway on to Wind River Road, which we would follow for some time as we climbed back into the Cascades and pine forest.
We cruised through Carson, WA, a very tiny town, with no listed population, although they did have one brewery. Andy’s math skills noted that Stevenson, population 1,200 had two breweries, so, clearly, Washington has a brewery for every 400 people. He’s ready to move here. Andy also found joy in passing an operating lumber mill, clearly creating inventory for Caseywood.
Then, the real work of the day began, and continued, and continued. We started our 3,000+ foot climb with many twists and turns, and another very high bridge crossing (this one fully paved, however). We also passed the Carson National Fish Hatchery, but didn’t see any fish.
After about 28 miles and 2:30 of pedal time, we reached the summit of Old Man Pass. We enjoyed bananas and a celebratory Frap we’d carried with us. Then, we cruised back down the hill, through Stevenson, and over the Bridge of the Gods – about 32 miles – in only 1:30. Gotta love downhill!
We took our celebratory photo, and met our friend, Bruce, who hauled us back to Portland (our first time in a car in 11 days). We’ll be back to real life on Monday!